Causative form せる・させる in Japanese

Author GokuGoku for article 'Causative form せる・させる in Japanese'

GokuGoku

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Causative form せる・させる in Japanese

Using the auxiliary verbs せる seru and させる saseru we form the causative form in Japanese.

The causative form, as the name suggests, is used to express something we do or allow someone to do.

The causative form indicates something that causes or allows something else.

In English to express the causative form, verbs such as permit or allow are used. In Japanese, on the other hand, this form is expressed with verbal conjugations, using the verbs せる seru and させる saseru.

This form is similar to English when we use the term make do. In fact, I make him do can mean:

  • Obligation: I force him to take an action
  • Permission: I allow him to take an action

In the causative form the same is true in the Japanese language.

How to conjugate the Causative Form in Japanese

The causative form is simple to conjugate in Japanese. We must make a distinction between Ichidan verbs, Godan verbs, and irregular verbs.

Causative form for Ichidan verbs

To conjugate the causative form of Ichidan verbs just change the last Hiragana ~る with ~させる.

()べる
()
()させる
()
()
()させる
()
()
()させる
Remember that all verbs in the Ichidan category end with the symbol Hiragana る

Causative form for Godan verbs

To conjugate the causative form of Godan verbs we have to modify the last Hiragana in the Base B1 (Negative) and add ~せる.

()
()
()
()せる

In this example we see how the verb ()む (drink) is conjugated in its Base B1 by removing む mu and adding ま ma, that is the Hiragana symbol that is part of the same series as む mu (both start with the character m) but ending in a: ま ma.

()
()
()
()せる
()
()
()
()せる
(ある)
(ある)
(ある)
(ある)せる
(はな)
(はな)
(はな)
(はな)せる
(すわ)
(すわ)
(すわ)
(すわ)せる
()
()
()
()せる
()
()
()
()せる
(およ)
(およ)
(およ)
(およ)せる

Contracted forms of させる and せる

Please note that in their contracted-form the verbs ~させる and ~せる become ~さす and ~す respectively:

()べさせる
()させる
()さす
()かせる
()せる
()
The copula だ (da) is not used alone in the causative form, but is instead replaced by the form ~にさせる

Causative form for irregular verbs

The two irregular verbs する and くる have a particular conjugation for the causative form:

する
させる
くる
こらせる

Causative form with transitive verbs

Now let's see how to use the particles with the causative form to indicate the various elements of the sentence (subject, object, etc.).

  • With transitive verbs the one who is forced to perform the action is with the particle に (ni)
  • The object of the sentence, if present, is always indicated with the particle を (wo)
  • The subject, the one who forces to perform the action, is indicated with the particle が (ga)

Let's see an example of a sentence with the causative form compared to a normal sentence:

(せい)()
(さく)(ぶん)
()く。

The student writes an essay.

In the example sentence, the subject student (せい)() is expressed with the particle が and the object essay (さく)(ぶん) with the particle を. In this case, the subject performs the action, and the object indicates what is being done.

Instead, let's see the same sentence in the causative form:

(せん)(せい)
(せい)()
(さく)(ぶん)
()かせる。

The teacher makes the students write an essay.

In this sentence we note the use of the causative form from the conjugation of the verb ()write which becomes ()かせる:

  • The subject, that is the one who causes the action, is the teacher (せん)(せい), indicated with the particle が
  • The students (せい)(), who are forced to write, are denoted by the particle に
  • The object the essay (さく)(ぶん), what is written, is indicated by the particle を
(おとうと)
ゴミ
()させる。

I have my brother take the sweep out.

Causative form with intransitive verbs

With intransitive verbs the one who is forced to perform the action can be indicated with the particle に or を. The choice between one particle and the other is dictated by some rules.

In general these two particles can be used both in the same situation:

()(ども)
(およ)がせる。

I make the children swim.

()(ども)
(およ)がせる。

I make the children swim.

However, there are some situations in which the に particle or the を particle must be used.

When to use を with intransitive verbs in the causative form

We use を in the causative form for intransitive verbs in the following situations:

  • When we are not talking about a person, that is when the direct object cannot act voluntarily (in the example below the tomatoes トマト)
トマト
(くさ)らせた。

I spoiled the tomatoes.

  • When we cause an emotion
(かの)(じょ)
()かせる。

I made her cry.

When to use に with intransitive verbs in the causative form

We use に in the causative form for intransitive verbs in the following situations:

  • When a movement verb uses the particle を ((ある)walk in the example below)
()(ども)
(やま)(みち)
(ある)かせる。

I made the children walk on a mountain road.

The causative form is closely related to passive form. The advice is therefore to learn the passive form.

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